The (all new) NC Museum of Art

Hold on to your blogger shorts, this is going to be a post and half. I was very excited when the new Museum of Art building opened, and when a friend said that it was fantastic I rushed out there. But it’s big, there is a lot to know about the kid-aspect, so it did take a couple of trips to get the information (such a sacrifice, I know). So I hope this is helpful:

1. The new building & the Art
The new building is right next to the old. It is light and bright, and one big open floor plan. The art shows very well in the new space, and the Rodins are exquisitely displayed. The open plan means that it is easy for strolling and exploring. But is also means it is loud and echoes the baby squeals. Although not too many people seemed to care. The NCMA does not seem to have that “church quietness” I have seen in other museums. Plus, there generally seems to be field trips in the museum making noise, too.

If you want to see the art solo, you have a few really cool options for interacting with the art.

Option 1: There is a cell phone tour. Some of the pieces have a Cell Phone Tour phone number on the describing placard. You pick up your phone, dial that number, and dial the stop number. You get a short audio clip about the piece, with either the curator or the artist themselves discussing the work and significance. Not sure how this affects cell phone minutes.

Option 2: If you are worried about minutes, for $3 you can rent an audio wand from the front desk. You do the same thing, but it isn’t your phone or your minutes.

Option 3: You can download the cell phone tour in advance here: Then put it on your mp3 player and take it with you.

Option 4: There is a sound experience tour offered as well. Link here, scroll to “Digital Guru” portion. Download this before you go, put it on your mp3 player and take it with you. When you get to the museum, certain pieces will have a track number. You listen to that track number while you take in the piece of art, enhancing the experience.

Option 5: Docent-led tours every day at 1:30. Adult-oriented.

So those are your adult-options for taking in art. Let’s talk kid and family options (which is why you are on this blog, afterall).

Option 1: At the front desk, they have educational totes. Geared for kids ages 4-9 these are free. You pick them up at the start of your visit. There is a different envelope for each gallery. It asks kids to find a specific piece of art in the gallery, answer questions about it, then has a hands on activity related to that piece. Return everything when you leave.

Option 2: For ages 2-5, there is a free “What’s in the Box?” Program. Offered 3 different times on Thursday mornings, first come-first served, an NCMA employee opens a box. Whatever is in the box leads to a new and exciting adventure that involves the art.

Option 3: For ages 4 and up, Saturdays are Family Fun Days. Starting at 10am, this is free, but pre-registration is required. So call ahead. Each Saturday is a new theme and a new activity.

Option 4: There are a few pamphlets at the front desk, as well, that you can pick up for kids if you want something shorter and less intense. Geared towards older kids, the pamphlets provide questions to provoke conversation about the art.

Option 5: You can simply stroll. There were plenty of mothers doing this, as did we. I have to say that C gets bored being the stroller too long, so this wasn’t the best option for us. But it really depends on your child. Of course the galleries are stroller friendly. The hardest part is that someone decided to put gravel outside near the museum main entrance. So you have to plow through that. But then you’re free.

2. The Museum trail and greenways
This is a fabulouspart of the museum for families. Out the doors of the museum is a paved trail. There are some pieces of art on the gently-sloping trail, and it makes a circle, starting at one side of the museums and ending at the other. At the trailhead located closest to the newest building there are a slew of picnic tables. This trail is short and stroller friendly. And you could picnic here.

There are also some greenways that intersect with the trail. These are going to require a carrier or jogging stroller.

But it really is beautiful out there. Peaceful and serene. Full information here: Click here for a map.

3. Special exhibitions
The old museum building is going to house special exhibits, and the NCMA is working to bring in some specifically targeted to kids. For example, in late 2010 and into early 2011, they are hosting an exhibit featuring children’s artwork from Eric Carle’s library. See link here for special exhibitions:

4. The ampitheater
On select Friday and Saturday nights during the summer, they have outdoor movies. Not all of these are family-friendly, so check the schedule ( before you go. Also, they have to wait for it to get dark, so movies start late, at 9 pm.

The NCMA has also continued their outdoor summer concert series. Again, not all family-friendly, but they do have some that would be great for the kids, including the Paperhand Puppet Intervention. So check the schedule here:

The amphitheater does have vendors that offer food and drinks for sale (including adult beverages).

5. Dining
The NCMA cafe, “Iris,” is beautiful, swank, pricey, and busy. When Sarah C. and I went, it was an hour and a half wait to get in. They do have high chairs, but this seems to be more of a place to have an upscale salad, a glass of white wine, and linger while you talk about the art you saw. Maybe not so much while watching your tot throw puffs around. But the staff was certainly friendly enough about sitting us and our precious bundles, we just decided we didn’t want to wait. Sarah C. and I opted to drive down the road and take the boys to a different place. If you want to eat the food here (which looks absolutely delicious), I suggest you put your name in right upon arrival, go look at some art, and come back and claim your table.

Information on Iris here:
They close at 2pm on weekdays so plan your visit accordingly.

It is safe to say that the Museum of Art has a lot to offer, and a wide range of activities.I hope you make it out there at some point to support the fine arts in our community. Entrance is free and parking is free and easy.

The North Carolina Museum of Art

2110 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC 27607
(919) 839-6262

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